The word ‘chores’ might send a shiver down your spine, but truthfully chores are an incredibly valuable way to learn life skills. You may be tentative to give your toddler chores, as you may be worried about a tantrum, or perhaps it’s just easier to do it yourself and that is absolutely fine. However, you might be surprised by how eager our little ones are to help out and contribute now they’re old enough to try. Whether your toddler is willing or reluctant, introducing chores can support their development.

Where to start

Up until now, you’ve done absolutely everything for your baby! While it’s exciting to see them growing up, the idea of giving them jobs and responsibilities may be jarring at first. As your child grows up, teaching them to do chores may help them with:

  • Learning how to take care of themselves
  • Teamwork skills, such as cooperation, communication and negotiation
  • Growing confidence in their ability to complete a task
  • A sense of pride, achievement and responsibility

Even if your little one grumbles now, they’ll thank you later for equipping them with the skills they’ll come to realise are very important.

If you’re lucky, your toddler may express an interest in helping out. Being a part of ‘adult’ activities can be exciting and rewarding. If your child does ask to help out, always encourage them! Sometimes it will be easier and quicker to complete a task yourself, but try not to let this discourage you from involving your toddler. If you are strapped for time when they ask, consider explaining that you need this task done now, but it would be great if your toddler could watch so they can do it next time.

Teaching your child how to perform a chore is a great way to bond. Working on something together can create a shared sense of pride and create memories and connection. Begin by doing chores together until your little one is ready to do it on their own.

Whether your child is excited or frustrated about doing chores, you may like to have a family discussion about why we all work together. Explain that sharing responsibilities and helping each other is a way of caring for your family and making your home a nice place to be.

If required, a reward system can incentivise your little helper. Consider making a chart to track what needs to be done. Your little one can mark off tasks as they go, adding to their sense of accomplishment. You might want to consider making the reward around family time – maybe you can play a game on Saturday night because of all the time your little one saved you during the week, or perhaps your toddler can choose a family movie or meal.

Praising your child for trying or for doing a good job is important to boost their self-esteem and encourage them to develop good habits. Avoid punishing your child if they perform a chore poorly, like if they accidentally smash a dish trying to unstack the dishwasher. Explain to them it’s okay that they’ve made a mistake and they should take care not to repeat it next time.

What kind of chores can my toddler do?

Don’t underestimate what your toddler is capable of! They are beginning to learn about who they are, so now is the time to foster a ‘can do’ attitude.

Think about chores that are suitable for your little one’s age and ability. Chores are a great way to build fine and gross motor reflexes, such as the movements of gripping, pinching, pushing, pulling etc. So, if at first you need to go back and wipe down the counters to get the spots they missed, that’s okay – they’re developing this motor skill, and it should improve with time.

Some tasks appropriate for most toddlers include:

  • Putting clothes away / on clothes hooks
  • Setting placemats on the dinner table
  • Picking up/putting away toys and books
  • Putting dirty clothes in the laundry basket
  • Wiping spills
  • Dusting low down things like skirting boards or tables/low shelves

At the ages of two to four, one or two chores is usually enough to get your little one in good habits. Consider making a list and letting them choose what to do that day. Making choices helps to build their sense of independence and confidence.

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